- McKinney York Architects (2013)
- Vernacular (1892), Contemporary (2013)
The African American Cultural and Heritage Facility is a community center for public programs and events. The compact compound houses the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce and the Office of Arts and Cultural Resources. The new facility includes renovations to the historical Dedrick-Hamilton House, which serves as a visitors’ bureau.
Thomas Dedrick, a formerly enslaved person, bought this property on Robertson’s Hill in 1878. His son, William, built the Dedrick-Hamilton House around 1892. The Dedricks were some of the first emancipated people to move to Austin and settle in the neighborhood just east of downtown, now known as Six Square (named for the six square miles that the segregationist Austin City Plan of 1928 designated for Black residents). Five generations lived in the Dedrick-Hamilton house—until the once-bustling area declined, and the city claimed the land.
In 2003, the city declared the property a “slum” and used HUD funds and eminent domain to acquire the house from its heirs, including writer and activist Darwin Hamilton. Because of its history in the community, the house was selected for preservation as part of the new African American Cultural and Heritage Facility. The external materials of the historic home were preserved while, inside, new walls and storm windows were added to improve efficiency. Historical artifacts uncovered during the restoration are now on display in the house.
The new community building to the west responds to the existing historical home with a brick facade reminiscent of the commercial buildings historically seen in Austin and the Six Square area. The design team chose to honor the original house by setting the new addition away from it as much as possible. Crisp details and steel and wood awnings modernize this vernacular-inspired storefront, which looks into the dance studio. Insulated windows provide daylighting and courtyard views, while wooden slats high along the porches surrounding the courtyard create a shady reprieve from the Texas summer heat. Combined with occupancy sensors and local controls for thermal comfort, these measures save 27 percent more energy than a conventional building.
Across the courtyard from the Dedrick-Hamilton house is Reflections, a mosaic of ceramic and glass funded by the Art in Public Places program. Houston artist Reginald C. Adams collaborated with the community, including local students, in a series of workshops to design and install the mosaic, which depicts William Dedrick and Texas state legislator Wilhelmina Delco, among other important people and places of Austin’s African American community. Every year a new honoree is added to the mural.
On the east side of the compound, a solid concrete wall encloses the stairs down to the parking area. Don’t miss the mural. Entitled Portraits of Our History, the painting by Ryan Runcie depicts Dedrick Hamilton, Austin musician Gary Clark Jr., and other notable Black Austinites. – Sara Alicia Costa, AIA
LEED Gold (U.S. Green Building Council)